For me it was when Grandma would let me cook with her. As the other kids were running and playing, the adults were playing Rook or talking football or doing needlework or planning last minute shopping trips, I was in the kitchen with Grandma making something yummy. She always had time for me and she always let me help her. If there was nothing that needed to be made, she would figure out some sweet treat or another that we could make together. In doing so, that magical feeling of Christmas evolved. It was a feeling of being loved, of being important, and of spending time with people who made me feel like I was one in a million. The twinkly lights inside and outside of the home just accentuated it.
It's harder (and more rewarding) to prepare for holidays as a new family. Not to mention I tend to stress out easily. Too easily in fact. I was worried about being able to create the feelings of joy and elation that I imagined in my mind while in the home of new family that I hardly know.
The gifts were all hidden prior to Christmas Eve which made the magic of Christmas morning all the more powerful. Kids awoke to find piles of gifts where there was once open space. I haven't a single picture from the morning. Not one. I literally sat on the couch and watched all the enthusiasm unfold without so much as one click. Very unlike me. Between the awe of Christmas morning, the Christmas Eve pajama scavenger hunt, gingerbread houses, craft projects, the 12 days of Christmas (all done by Grandma), and just being able to play with cousins, the elusive perfection of Christmas seemed to be felt by all the children. Which made me realize: the magic of Christmas is often the magic of having a Grandma.
Part of me feels a little sick at the thought that I didn't take a single photograph. Instead I will have to make due with the Rockwell-esque pictures preserved in my mind as a memory of this, our first Christmas as a family.
Hopefully your holidays were just as memorable.